CANDIDATE PRESENTATION TO LCWR ASSEMBLY: MARCIA ALLEN, CSJ
AUGUST 14, 2014
Good Afternoon! I’ve been asked to address the same questions as those mentioned by the candidates for secretary: Why am I available, given the challenges of this time? What critical issues do I believe LCWR must address in order to support members? What challenges would I offer the LCWR membership in relation to the Call of 2015-2022?
What comes to mind is David Whyte’s poem,
No one told me
it would lead to this…
Then Whyte describes the journey toward integrity. It seems to me that that’s where we today.
The details of the Call initiatives — 1) Embrace Critical Change, 2) Provide Skills and Resources for contemplative and Anticipatory Leadership, and 3) Stand for Social Justice in Response to the Needs of the Times — are what we do in our ordinary lives. The topics themselves contain vast areas where we can live into the extraordinary active and effective gospel life that is our calling as women religious.
I was in Louisville in 1989 when the LCWR and CMSM conferences met jointly and authored 10 Transformative Elements to guide leaders and congregations during the next 20 years. At the time they seemed terribly idealistic but at the end of those 20 years when we read them again we realized that, indeed, we had lived into these transformative elements. Were I to read these elements now you would see that in the last 25 years our evolution does, indeed, mirror them. That is why I believe that we must once again corporately give serious attention to these 2015-22 initiatives. If we take them seriously, work with them communally here and at home, continue to eke out their meaning, we will grow into the transformations they offer. This, I believe, is our most serious challenge. It supersedes in our awareness the Apostolic Visitation and the CDF investigation. In fact, this work will enable us to apply ourselves more truly to our relationship with CICLSAL and CDF with integrity and courage. AND, it will thrust us into our world more effectively where our charisms come truly alive. These initiatives call us to keep our eye on the prize!
This summer I was fortunate to read Anne E. Butler’s history of religious women on the American western frontier from 1850 to 1920, and I realized that as we women religious moved west we moved away from the norm for women, especially the norm for women religious. There, where no structures for decorum, no mores for correct behavior or attitudes for women existed, religious women were forced to make up their religious life as they went. It was a matter of survival in order to proceed with the work to which they were sent.
Moving west meant creating religious life outside church and congregational structures and expectations. They, like other frontier women, had to reinvent themselves in order to do what they had to do. We are the beneficiaries of these women – frontier women who had to think for themselves, achieve their mission in unfriendly circumstances and keep their charism’s spirit alive by inventing new ways to be religious. This is one of the enormous factors for why women’s idea of obedience is so different from that of the ecclesiastical church for and in which we live and work. That’s why today we find ourselves, as David Whyte says in his poem, “feeling a way along … the blade so sharp it cuts things together.”
So why am I standing here today?
For many years I have simply been in love with religious life itself for women — the astonishing foundings of most — the marvelous charisms — the history of creating the possible from the impossible — and in the last 50 years participating in the process of transformation into which our desire for God’s desire has us and that the church has mandated — throughout our history it has been a struggle against all odds.
I have found myself over the years always in ministry to, with and among the many congregations here in the U.S. and many other places — for 30-plus years facilitating chapters, assemblies, giving retreats, conferences, participating in many ways in the deepening of the meaning of our religious life. I have watched us grow, suffer, adapt, study, struggle to become always more effective out of the inner impulse of love — great love, sacrificial love –—and love with a capital L.
When the CDF assessment and follow-up communications happened I was disbelieving, amazed, grieved. Why?
I know us. I believe in us.
If you call me to continue serving through this conference in leadership I would gladly do that.